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Toto Wolff addresses the Aston Martin rumours…again

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has once again stated he has no plans to become CEO or make an investment in Aston Martin.

With Aston Martin officially returning to Formula 1 as a works team in 2021 at the same time Wolff’s current Mercedes contract will have ended, the rumour mill is overdrive mode.

Wolff and Aston Martin investor, Lawrence Stroll, are good friends but Wolff has said the people making those connections are getting the maths all wrong.

“In most stories that could be read about it, people added up 1 + 1 and turned it into 3,” Wolff told Austrian newspaper, Osterreich.

“What is my current status? My participation in Mercedes is solid, my contract runs until the end of 2020, and we are still in good discussions about what we want to do together.

“We are discussing. But all of this has been pushed into the background by Corona. We all have bigger problems to solve now: human problems in our companies.”

“I’m not going to become CEO of Aston Martin, and I’m not going to make a strategic investment there either.”

Wolff went on to say that, in the “short term”, he plans to remain with the Silver Arrows, despite some unexplained unhappiness over the winter.

“I’m in the eighth year now,” he said.

“I love sports and this team. However, I am somewhat surprised by the turn of events over the winter and by the behaviour of individual people.

“Of course, this also has to do with my decision on what to do in 2020 and beyond. But I am and will remain the head of Mercedes Motorsport and F1 boss, and nothing will change in the short term.”

Although Wolff had previously denied the Aston Martin links in another interview, the rumours did persist that all was not well between Wolff and Mercedes as there are reportedly “cracks in the relationship”.

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Gallery: Over 70 years of Porsche’s history in pictures

To celebrate over 70 years of Porsche, Motorsport Images revisited its archive to compile some of the best pictures from the German marque’s rich history.

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Williams furloughs staff, management and drivers take pay cuts

Williams has confirmed it has placed a number of its Formula 1 staff on furlough as well as introducing pay cuts for its drivers and senior management members.

As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact F1, teams are anticipating financial difficulties onset by a lack of revenue due to the cancelled races.

McLaren was the first to officially announce last week it would be taking advantage of a government scheme that allows companies to furlough staff, paying 80% of wages up to £2,500 per month.

In a statement issued by Williams on Monday, the British team announced it had also started furloughing staff, as well as confirming pay cuts for a number of the senior team members, including drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latifi.

“Due to the ongoing situation involving COVID-19, ROKiT Williams Racing is temporarily furloughing a number of employees as part of a wider range of cost-cutting measures,” the statement reads.

“The furlough period will last until the end of May whilst senior management, and our drivers, have taken a pay cut of 20% effective from 1st April.

“These decisions have not been taken lightly, however our aim is to protect the jobs of our staff at Grove and ensuring they can return to full-time work when the situation allows.”

Williams deputy boss Claire Williams previously said the team would look to “safeguard” its business, accounting for a loss of revenue from races being called off – the hosting fees for which fund F1 prize money.

The F1 season is currently on hiatus as officials wait to see how the pandemic will impact further events, having already called off the opening eight races of the season.

The most recent statement from CEO Chase Carey said F1 was targeting a 15-18 race calendar starting over the summer, but doubts remain over the viability of the events in the coming months.

Carey is set to take part in a conference call with the bosses from all 10 F1 teams on Monday afternoon to give the latest updates on the situation.

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Williams drivers join pay cut list, staff furloughed

Williams has joined McLaren in officially announcing pay cuts for senior staff and its drivers, whilst placing some other members of staff on furlough.

With no Formula 1 racing for the foreseeable future, teams are understandably feeling the pinch when it comes to finances.

Whilst teams are saving money in some areas with the likes of the new regulations being delayed, the drying up of main revenue streams are forcing them into other protective measures.

McLaren, who have led through example throughout these difficult times, were first to take advantage of the measure brought into effect by the UK government, who will cover 80 per cent of a person’s wage if they are furloughed, while Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were also confirmed to be taking pay cuts to help ease the financial burden on their team.

Now George Russell and Nicholas Latifi, as well as senior management, are all taking a 20 per cent pay cut at Williams, which was effective from April 1. Other members of staff have been placed on temporary furlough initially until the end of May.

As part of a short statement issued on the Williams website, it said: ‘These decisions have not been taken lightly, however our aim is to protect the jobs of our staff at Grove and ensuring they can return to full-time work when the situation allows.’

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NASCAR Driver Rage-Quits Esports Event, Loses Real World Sponsor

NASCAR Series partner Blue-Emu has terminated its sponsorship of Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace in a truly bizarre set of circumstances.

Up to 2015, Blue-Emu — an emu oil joint and muscle cream — sponsored the Richard Petty Motorsport (RPM) outfit. That deal had to end when Richard Petty signed a non-compete with Goody’s Powder, a powder-based pain-relief brand he’d been the face of since 1977.

Instead, Blue-Emu has taken to sponsoring the individual cars, primarily Darrell “Bubba” Wallace’s #43 Chevrolet Camaro. The brand is also the sponsor for the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500, the 500-lap race of Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia.

With iRacing filling in the gaping chasm in the motorsports calendar right now, Blue-Emu carried that sponsorship through to the NASCAR Pro Invitational. Absent other events to show, the first race in the series was the most-watched sports broadcast in the USA across all of March, and the most-watched gaming event in US history.

Given the circumstances, the series has something of a more serious edge to it, and that’s something Wallace could have done with remembering. The RPM driver, through no fault of his own, tangled with “in-car” commentator Clint Bowyer of Stewart-Haas Racing on lap 11 of this weekend’s virtual Food City Showdown at Bristol Motor Speedway:

"C'MON, @BubbaWallace!"- @ClintBowyer pic.twitter.com/Zqne4HIPa5

— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) April 5, 2020

Though Bowyer came off second-best in the accident, Wallace was not impressed. Viewers of the RPM driver’s own stream — with prominent Blue-Emu branding — saw him park the car, exclaim “Y’all have a good one. That’s it. This is why I don’t take this **** serious. Peace out.” and quit.

That decision, with 92% of the race remaining, caught Blue-Emu’s eye. The company took to Twitter to let Wallace know it didn’t find rage-quitting in front of a million viewers acceptable, and it would terminate its sponsorship of the #43 driver — adding that it wants “drivers, not quitters”:

pic.twitter.com/up0NiMwCAA

— Blue-Emu (@BlueEmu1) April 5, 2020

Wallace’s rage quit and comments about gaming come at odds with his own statements just last week. The 81-race driver, now in his fourth season, runs a Mario Kart 8 tournament for his crew and fans, and when speaking to NASCAR.com noted:

“It’s almost unhealthy how much we’re taking a game like Mario Kart into consideration of how to be better at. But hey, I’m a competitor. I want to win at everything. I don’t care if it’s Mario Kart, iRacing or real life. It’s a racing game I have a huge passion for.”

Given Blue-Emu’s multi-year contract with NASCAR, consisting of both the Virginia race entitlement and placement as official pain relief cream, spray, and patch of NASCAR, this incident is likely to rumble on once the cars return to action.

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Nico Rosberg selects Lewis Hamilton on his all-time best list

2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg has selected his top five Formula 1 drivers of all time in a quick-fire fashion on Sky Sports F1’s Vodcast.

Rosberg, who has turned pundit predominantly for Sky Sports and RTL Germany, is doing plenty of video calls as he, like many of us, continue to stay in work mode during this extended lockdown period.

With no Formula 1 racing on the horizon any time soon, it is giving everyone the time to reflect on Formula 1’s history and consider who they rank amongst the all-time greats of the sport.

For Rosberg and his top five, there is room for his old mate Lewis Hamilton, although the absolute best of all-time is exclusively reserved for somebody else.

“I’ll go for [Michael] Schumacher,” Rosberg said.

“I was with him. He’s just a complete all-rounder. For me, the best of all time.

“Then I’ll go for [Juan-Manuel] Fangio.

“Then I’ll go for [Ayrton] Senna.

“Then I’ll go for [Lewis] Hamilton.

“Then I’ll go for [Alain] Prost.”

Fellow Sky Sports pundit, Anthony Davidson, also revealed his top five list which included: Niki Lauda, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and Michael Schumacher.

“I’ve chosen the ones that really inspired me as a child,” Davidson explained.

“The ones that got me into racing and the ones that made me want to continue racing once I’d started karting.

“So my earliest memory, as a five-year-old kid, was watching a guy called Niki Lauda, in his McLaren, winning the World Championship by half a point.

“Even though I didn’t know about the specifics of his driving style, I knew that he was professional and knew that he was world class.

“As a kid, to see the scars on his face, it left quite an impact and I clearly remember that.”

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The F1 tracks that could work in reverse

The idea of reversing Silverstone to add events to the delayed and shortened 2020 Formula 1 calendar gained traction this week after comments from the circuit’s boss. So Motorsport.com took a look to see at which circuits this might just be possible

“It’s not such a silly thought. We’re not licensed to run the other way, but these are extraordinary times, and I guess that extraordinary decisions are being made.”

Those are the words of Silverstone boss Stuart Pringle, who told Sky Sports News earlier this week that the British Grand Prix venue is opening to hosting multiple rounds of the delayed 2020 Formula 1 season – if that helps the mandated rounds of the world championship can take place this year.

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WEC would be ‘arrogant’ to predict full ’21 calendar

A reduced FIA World Endurance Championship calendar with fewer races next year has not been ruled out by series boss Gerard Neveu. 

Neveu said that it was too early to talk in detail about the schedule for the new season, which looks certain to begin next March after the abandonment of the winter calendar format.

He pointed out that there is no way of predicting the economic climate motorsport will face when the world emerges from the coronavirus crisis and that events may require the WEC to be downscaled from the current eight rounds.

“If I tell you that next year we will have eight races starting in March and finishing in November, I would be crazy and arrogant,” he said. “It could be less races: there are many options and everything is possible.

“We have to make an observation on the economic situation in a few months: what is the position of the teams, manufacturers, gentlemen drivers and what is the position of the partners, sponsors?”

Neveu stated that it is the WEC’s intent to start the 2021 season with the Sebring 1000 Miles next March alongside the Florida venue’s 12-hour round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The only certainty at the moment, he said, is that the Le Mans 24 Hours will take its traditional mid-June slot. 

“It should be that we will be in Super Sebring,” he said. “The only thing I am quite sure right now is to put Le Mans and Super Sebring on the calendar.”

Asked if the WEC would return to Silverstone, which had been due to host the opening round of the 2020/21 season this September, Neveu replied. “I have no idea.”

He also said it was too early to talk about Kyalami, which was on the 2020/21 calendar with a February slot, though he indicated that the WEC would be maintaining a dialogue with the South African venue.

But Neveu stressed that the WEC would continue to travel around the globe next season. 

“The fact is that it’s a world championship, so it will not be a European championship — we will travel a little bit for sure,” he explained.

FIA rules state that world championships must visit a minimum of three continents and the sporting rules for the current WEC season demand that a minimum of six races including Le Mans take place.

Neveu hinted that the WEC could be heading for what he described as a “reset”. 

“We will have to rethink and rebuild something after the crisis,” he said, adding that the series could undergo “a small evolution” and that “everything has to be on the table”.

The WEC has ripped up its 2020/21 calendar, due to be the second run to the winter-series format, after rejigging the end of the current campaign as a result of the world situation. 

The Spa round postponed from this month has been given a revised date of August 15, while a new race at Bahrain, its second fixture of the current WEC campaign, will close the season on November 21, effectively replacing last month’s abandoned Sebring round.

They will sandwich the new date for Le Mans on September 19/20.

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Wolff rules out formal role or ‘strategic’ Aston investment

Toto Wolff has dismissed talk that he will have a formal role or ‘strategic’ stake in Aston Martin, even though he could make a personal financial investment in the British sportscar manufacturer.

The Mercedes motorsport boss’s future has been the subject of intense speculation for months, with his current contract running out at the end of 2020.

Last year he emerged as a candidate to potentially replace Chase Carey as the boss of F1, while more recently he has been linked with opportunities at Aston Martin.

While it is understood a personal financial investment in Aston Martin could be on the cards, he is clear that his focus is on sorting out a new deal to remain at Mercedes.

Speaking to Austrian daily newspaper Osterreich, Wolff said that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic had put a halt to talks with his bosses about his future.

But, despite expressing some unease about unidentified developments in F1, he said that he was all set to stay where he is.

“I’m in the eighth year now,” he said. “I love sports and this team. However, I am somewhat surprised by the turn of events over the winter and by the behaviour of individual people.

“Of course, this also has to do with my decision on what to do in 2020 and beyond. But I am and will remain the head of Mercedes Motorsport and F1 boss, and nothing will change in the short term.”

Asked about the speculation over his Mercedes future, Wolff said: “In most stories that could be read about it, people added up 1 + 1 and turned it into 3.

“What is my current status? My participation in Mercedes is solid, my contract runs until the end of 2020, and we are still in good discussions about what we want to do together.

“We are discussing. But all of this has been pushed into the background by Corona. We all have bigger problems to solve now – human problems in our companies.”

He added: “I’m not going to become CEO of Aston Martin, and I’m not going to make a strategic investment there either.”

Wolff is a good friend with Aston Martin executive chairman Lawrence Stroll and, although a personal financial investment in the company is possible, he is clear that there is no intention to do anything else.

“Stroll and his team are a big customer of our racing team,” he said. “They purchase engines, gearboxes and suspension parts from Mercedes.

“In addition, Lawrence has been a good friend of mine for many years – regardless of our business relationships.”

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Daniel Ricciardo doubts Formula 1 will start in June

Canada is down as the first race on the 2020 calendar, but Daniel Ricciardo says he doubts the season will begin in mid-June.

Formula 1 is currently on hiatus, the globe’s sporting calendar halted by the ongoing crisis.

The sport was expected to start in Melbourne in mid-March but that grand prix was cancelled at the 11th hour.

Since then six other races have joined Australia and China on either the cancelled or postponed list.

As things stand today Canada is the first race on the calendar, scheduled to take place on June 14, before the circus heads to France two weeks later.

Ricciardo, though, doubts F1 will be up and running come June.

“We don’t actually know when we’re going to go and compete again and I think when we do get going, our calendar will be looking pretty hectic,” he said in an Instagram chat with AFL player Nic Naitanui.

“I think they’re going try to condense and squeeze as much as they can until the new year.

“When I do get that call, I want to be ready.

“I would love June to happen – at the moment, they’ve push or cancelled or postponed everything until mid-June – but that’s the perfect world but I think it will be later than that.”

In the meantime the Aussie is taking his isolation period at the family farm in Australia.

Spending time driving tractors and speaking to the sheep, Ricciardo is also hard at work on training.

The Renault driver is adamant he must remain in peak form so that when the start of the season is announced, he doesn’t have to put in the extra yards to undo the damage from an extended holiday.

“You know what it’s like,” he added, “if you get into holiday mode, you create more work for yourself.”

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